There is, among men, a hierarchy of expenditure. Car, of course. Tech, obviously. Watches, if that’s your bag. And either of the two big S’s – sneakers and suits. Recently, a new statement item has entered the playing field – fragrance.
Not your familiar commercial numbers either, Bleu de Chanel, Sauvage, Acqua di Gio. All very good but not quite hitting the sweet spot serious investors of art seek out – hard-to-find, out of the mainstream and costly. In recent market trend reports, it’s been predicted that the global fragrance and perfume market will reach approximately US$ 43620 million by 2026, from US$ 42070 million in 2020.
Instead, what men are dropping serious cash on are brands that hail from more exotic shores. Amouage from Oman, Nishane from Turkey; Roja Parfums from Britain; and Xerjoff from Italy. Big budget yet niche names that carry the gravitas of word-of-mouth on forums that obsess over details of who the nose was, the accords, the difference between natural versus synthetic ingredients.
One of the rarified wells at which these aficionados drink is Libertine Parfumerie. Responsible for bringing some of the most exquisite – and expensive – fragrances from around the world to Australia, director and founder Nick Smart says that the gender divide with his clientele is definitely weighted towards men. “Men’s is generally our best-selling category when it comes to fragrance,” explains Smart. “This result evens out with the removal of Aventus from the equation, though, which then brings it to an almost 50/50 split.”
In fact, much of the blame for this infatuation of the micro details becomes from Creed’s runaway success story, Aventus. One of the most sought after fragrance releases for men, fans of the modern fruity chypre treat the juice like they would a sporting team, picking apart the players (or notes) and their performance each new season with accusations of subtle changes or stronger or weaker projection.
Part of the thrill – much like any collectible – can be ascribed to the boasting power of owning something hard to find and, usually, costing a pretty penny or two. Details such as batch numbers versus redesigns on lids and even the slightest change in the colour of the liquid within the bottle are heatedly debated. And so it is with Aventus. Those at Creed, and those that stock the brand, all agree that each release has no variation in ingredients, gents hard-wired into seeking out reformulations claim to detect the subtlest of differences ranging from too much fruit in the top note, or smokier in the dry down.
Luxury brands have cottoned on to this sentiment. Chanel’s most recent release from their Les Exclusifs line, while essentially genderless is traditionally targeted towards women, Le Lion is a roaring, almost feral, amber and citrus scent that picks you up by the scruff of the neck. Dior’s La Collection Privée is also designed for more discerning consumers keen to pay a little extra for something less run of the mill as, say, Sauvage.
Lockdown, says Smart, was also a catalyst for plenty of men who had potentially only dabbled before. During lockdown (and currently) we have seen a sharp increase in the personal care category,” says Smart. “Our two most popular men’s fragrances have been Creed Viking Cologne for its fresh, herbaceous and spicy notes and Portraits Collection Mr Penhaligon’s, a signature vetiver masterpiece.”
Icon’s Top Five
Nose: Chris Maurice
Nishane is a refreshing break from the French and Italian monopoly of fragrance. Based in Turkey, it comes with the distinct intersection of East and West in each of their creations. In Nefs, the gourmand accord of amber, vanilla and saffron is given a boozy boost with an intense note of whisky. But it’s the drydown where the magic happens, as osmanthus and leather combine to create a smooth as suede finish that will have you sniffing your own shirt collar. Price: $726 from fragranceartisans.com.au.
Nose: Karine Vinchon Spehner
Dropping in early 2021, Boundless is one of the new scents to come from the Omani brand since the takeover of Renaud Salmon as new chief experience officer. A rich, amber woody fragrance with notes of tobacco, incense, oakmoss and bourbon vanilla. In creating it, perfumer Karin Vinchon Spehner was inspired by the colours of the rainbow gum tree native to the Philippines and Indonesia. RRP$459. Available at davidjones.com.
Le lion de Chanel
Nose: Olivier Polge
Amber, leather and citrus make for a beast-mode scent that is by far the most masculine of the entire Les Exclusifs collection. In-house perfumer Olivier Polge said he was more inspired by the iconic Chanel lion, rather than the physical animal – a beast of myth, rather than earth then. Price: $495 from Chanel.
Roja Dove Roja Haute Luxe
Nose: Roja Dove
For sheer money-is-no-option bragging rights, British perfumer Roja Dove’s Roja Haute Luxe is the eye-watering winner. A mossy-wood with notes of jasmine, oakmoss, cedarwood and patchouli – this smells as opulent as it costs and is said to be Roja’s own signature. Price: $4500. From libertineparfumerie.com.au.
Louis Vuitton Imagination
Nose: Jacques Cavallier
Louis Vuitton’s decision to release fragrances has been a fantastic addition to the brand’s oeuvre. With inspiration ranging from travel and the material that make their iconic bags, it’s hard not to find one in the entire line up that doesn’t make you smile. Enter Imagination, the latest release – a zesty banger that eventually slows down to a smouldering warm tea and ginger accord rounded out by glow of ambroxan. Price: $440 from Louis Vuitton.